Delicious wine is guaranteed at the boutique hotel TerraVina. But would you raise a glass to the food?

Hotel TerraVina, 174 Woodlands Road,Woodlands, Netley Marsh, Hampshire, tel: 02380 293 784

Don't ask me how I feel until I have opened the wine list, because I won't know. Am I Lively & Fruity? Not at the moment. Intense & Powerful? Never. Smooth & Nutty? Not tonight. Suave & Exuberant? Yes, that's me... and a glass of something Supple & Fragrant for my wife, thank you.

"Tell me what you drink and I'll tell you who you are" could replace charades as the new country-house game. Certainly it's the in-house entertainment at TerraVina, an award-winning boutique hotel-cum-country house on the edge of the New Forest created by Gerard and Nina Basset, two of the founders of the groundbreaking Hotel Du Vin group.

Gerard Basset is probably England's most-qualified wine professional, being the only person in the world to hold simultaneously the Master Sommelier Exam, Master of Wine Exam and a Wine MBA (from Bordeaux University), for which he wrote a thesison the writing of wine lists (a-haah...) A special, spot-lit vaulted cellar takes pride of place in the dining-room, while the "real" cellar lurks below stairs. There are three sommeliers on staff and two Enomatic machines to keep opened wines fresh, enabling an impressive selection of wines by the glass.

The food? Oh yes, sorry. Head chef David Giles has drawn up a menu which, like the hotel, takes its inspiration from the laid-back vibe of Californian wine country. So instead of Hotel Du Vin's Eurocentric bistro fare, there is roasted wood pigeon with Parmesan gnocchi, grilled plaice with linguine nero and Avruga caviar sauce, and caramelised pear and Gorgonzola salad with hazelnuts. Adding to the Cal-Ital feel, the open kitchen features a big open-faced oven, fuelled pragmatically by gas rather than romantically by wood.

What isn't particularly Californian is the mood, which is still very English country house, with hushed whisperings in corners, polite nodding between tables, and lighting on the dim side of moody. The dining-room is polarised by a high-backed banquette, with only the tables to one side lit by the open kitchen. Even the kitchen brigade is quiet, with no obvious sounds of chopping, clatter or sizzle. If Gordon Ramsay walked in, you just know he'd say "For ****'s sake, it's a ****ing open kitchen – put on a ****ing show!"

Starters are Pretty & Generous. A large turban of good, oily organic smoked salmon (£8.25) is topped with chive-flecked soured cream on a blini cushion, a warm rosy-pink fig at its side. Fresh & Familiar, Simple & Intelligent. (This may get annoying, but it's fun at this end.) Next up is a bowl of fluffy foam, beneath which lies an open lasagne of fine house-made pasta, freshly picked crab and crunchy little baby leeks (£9.25). It's Bright & Light, especially with a carafe of Fresh & Fruity 2007 Frangy Roussette de Savoie (£7).

Main courses are also attractively plated, but let down by cooking times. Two big lozenges of pan-fried monkfish cheek (£16.95) drape themselves over potato purée, the plate artfully strewn with pencil leeks and streaks of salsa verde; while two trimmed, roasted wood-pigeon breasts (£16.50) team with a forest floor of Pied Bleu mushrooms, Parmesan gnocchi and pumpkin purée. The fish is oddly leathery and lacks any real flavour, and the pigeon is tight, chewy and boring, as if the eating experience was sacrificed for presentation. In better nick, both would have gone beautifully with a Supple & Fragrant 2006 Vincent Dureuil-Janthial Rully (£36.75).

A lemon tart is Well-Made & Wobbly with an exceptional raspberry sorbet (£6.50), while a nicely kept selection of cheeses includes a killer Reblochon (£7.50).

TerraVina is a class act, and any wine lover would do well to spend the night here. All that is missing is a sense of relaxation, in the food and atmosphere – then everyone can have as much fun as the wine lovers.

14/20

SCORES 1-9 STAY HOME AND COOK 10-11 NEEDS HELP 12 OK 13 PLEASANT ENOUGH 14 GOOD 15 VERY GOOD 16 CAPABLE OF GREATNESS 17 SPECIAL, CAN’T WAIT TO GO BACK 18 HIGHLY HONOURABLE 19 UNIQUE AND MEMORABLE 20 AS GOOD AS IT GETS

Hotel TerraVina, 174 Woodlands Road,Woodlands, Netley Marsh, Hampshire, tel: 02380 293 784

Breakfast, lunch, dinner daily. Around £130 for two for dinner, including wine and service.

The crunch bunch: More worthy wine lists

Valvona & Crolla Vincaffè

11 Multrees Walk, Edinburgh, tel: 0131 557 0088

This buzzy bar/café combines hearty casalinga cooking with a wine list full of good-value Italian labels and more than 50 wines by the glass

The Sweet Olive

Baker Street, Aston Tirrold, Oxfordshire, tel: 01235 851 272

Olivier Bouet's solid bistro cooking is matched by a good, straightforward wine list with nothing over £30. Even the fine-wine list has its share of bargains

Wild Honey

12 St George Street, London W1, tel: 020 7758 9160

A people's list of labels perfectly complements Anthony Demetre's seasonally driven menu, with every red and white available in 250ml carafes

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Guru Careers: Events Coordinator / Junior Events Planner

    £24K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Events Coordinator ...

    Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: Chief Executive Officer

    Salary 42,000: Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: The CEO is responsible ...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Day In a Page

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
    Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

    The end of an era across the continent

    It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
    Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

    'Focus on killing American people'

    Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
    Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

    Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

    The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
    Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

    Same-sex marriage

    As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
    The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

    The Mafia is going freelance

    Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable